Maya Bay: The BEST Way to Experience “The Beach”

Maya Bay: The BEST Way to Experience “The Beach”

Trust me, it’s paradise. This is where the hungry come to feed. For mine is a generation that circles the globe and searches for something we haven’t tried before. So never refuse an invitation, never resist the unfamiliar, never fail to be polite and never outstay the welcome. Just keep your mind open and suck in the experience. And if it hurts, you know what? It’s probably worth it.
– Richard of The Beach movie

Leo on The BeachEvery month, thousands of determined tourist groups land in Thailand’s famous Phi Phi islands for their dose of the legendary “The Beach”! Yes, the very beach that was made famous by “The Beach” movie of 2000 – after all, it was the highlight of the movie!

Where exactly is “The Beach”?

Phi Phi islands is a group of five islands in the Andaman sea. The only populated island is the biggest island – Koh Phi Phi Don. However, “The Beach” is Maya bay of the uninhabited Koh Pi Phi Leh. Actually, the island is not completely uninhabited – the lucky island warden gets to live there.

Our Obsession with “The Beach” (the movie and Maya Bay – both)

The only downer is, everyone’s got the same idea.

 – Richard of The Beach movie

A few years back, my best friend and I also decided to visit “The Beach”. However, there was ONE problem that was glaring at our faces. We saw many people’s vacation pictures and to our dismay, Maya Bay appeared to be disgustingly full in all the pictures.  We also read on many blog websites where people had complained that the bay was full of longtail boats bringing tourists in large numbers from the nearby Krabi, Phuket and Ko Phi Phi Don. In most of the pictures, the beach was not visible at all because it had too many people on it!

Just like the movie, we also wanted to run around on empty Maya Bay, swim close to the fishes and with the planktons at night, sleep under the glittering stars, wake up in the morning on an empty beach and run around again!

Nevertheless, we were not ready to give up. We hunted for a few days but we finally found the perfect solution! We found that only ONE way where we could do all of above, have the island to ourselves AND watch the sunset and sunrise too! How?

Well, there’s only one tour operator has the permit to take people to this island before and after the tourist hours. They don’t take 25 people, which is perfect! The tour starts after lunch and ends next day after breakfast. So overall – it’s 25 (or less) people on a beautiful island with no one else! Read to find out more about this.

The Adventure Begins:

On our visit to Phi Phi Island, we were short of time because we decided to spend only 2 days on this island. Out of the two days, one half of our second day was spent scuba diving. We ended up paying for only one night for our room because we dropped our luggage early for our Maya Bay tour.

We boarded our tour boats that had ONLY 10 other people from different countries – so in total we were 12 people on that island plus the crew. Speaking of the crew – there were only 5 people and they managed the show well. Over a fruit platter on the deck, our tour guide – Kai broke the ice and got everyone to socialize. After all, we were all going to spend a day together.

The Viking Cave near Maya Bay

The Viking Cave near Maya Bay

We cruised around in blue waters, stopped near the Viking cave for a few photos and stopped the boat in the middle of nowhere. Here we had an option to do kayaking and snorkeling – or both.

Viking Cave up close

Viking Cave up close

Magical Snorkeling and my mermaid moment:

This is the spot where I had the best snorkeling experience!

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As I went underwater, hundreds of fishes swam around my head – almost kissing my face. I could see three different schools of fish all floating in different directions.  Time stood still as I looked around under water sinking in the beauty. In that moment, I was a mermaid and it was better than what I had seen in any movie! I did not have an underwater camera so I tried to make a mental video to remember for life.

After a bit of snorkeling and kayaking, it was time to go back to the boat. Because of the tide, the boat couldn’t enter Maya Bay so we had to take a different and more dangerous route to enter Ko Phi Phi Ley. From the boat we had to climb on a rope ladder to the slippery cliffs. Getting on the ladder was not easy because the waves were strong, but it got simpler after that. We walked around the island for a few minutes and finally reached our destination.

Welcome to Maya Bay – “The Beach”

We were finally on Maya Bay! The sensory delight that greeted us took our breath away.

Empty Maya Bay: Rosh and I couldn't believe our luck!

Empty Maya Bay: Rosh and I couldn’t believe our luck!

  • The sight of this Paradise beach
  • The sound of waves and birds
  • The touch of the soft sand on our feet
  • The smell of the sea and the trees
  • A taste of salt on our lips from the sea air

Our five senses thanked us for waking them up!

It felt incredible and wrong at the same time that we were the ONLY ones of this island and privileged few to enjoy it just to ourselves!

Maya Bay

Look how pretty Maya Bay looks when it’s empty!

Anyway, my friend and I walked around the island for a while. The island is tiny and had a lot of greenery. People who visit usually are so enchanted by the beach that they don’t end up exploring the forest area.

Maya Bay Forest2

The Forest area in Phi Phi Leh

After an aimless walk and a small island exploration, we headed back to the beach and found our perfect spot in a cove to enjoy the sunset with Chang beer.

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We met the rest of the group at the designated time to enjoy the delicious barbecue and a Thai bucket.  We all sat around in circle, spent the entire evening exchanging travel stories, playing silly drinking games and eating delicious food. By the way – all the food and one bucket was included in the cost of this tour.

Drinking Games at night on Maya Bay

Drinking Games at night on Maya Bay

Swimming with the Plankton at Maya Bay

Somewhere around the midnight, Kai announced that it was time for a night swim! We jumped into the water to swim with hundreds of tiny star-like bio luminescent phytoplankton. Commonly known as plankton, they sparkled like a starry sky as we moved through the dark water and they glow only if you move around in the water.

Time to sleep under the stars on Maya Bay

Post our swim, we went back to our boat that was moored 30-50 meters off the beach. We chose our sleeping spots on the deck of our big boat under the stars. Sleep came to us easily since we were all extremely tired from our action packed day.

Good Morning Maya Bay – Empty Beach! (And the customary jump shot)

The boat crew woke us up early morning to make the most of our last few hours. We walked around and noticed that the first set of private tour boats had started arriving. In that instant we felt extremely lucky since now knew how it felt to experience “The Beach” the best way.

Kai announced that it was time for a jump shot. The funny part – there were 10 different cameras and he made at least 5 photos from each so we all ended up jumping 50 times! Was it worth it? Well, see the picture and decide for yourself!

Customary Jump Shot on Empty Maya Bay

Customary Jump Shot on Empty Maya Bay

The Name of the Tour: Maya Bay Sleep AboardThe tour was awesome back in 2013 when I visited Thailand. My sister visited in 2014 and did the same tour and loved it. I obviously don’t know if it’s still as good as it was back then. I recommend you read their reviews on TripAdvisor before booking.

Price: THB 3000

Was it worth it? Well if you look at the money, you save on one room night and all the meals for 24 hours as well as one rum or vodka bucket PLUS if you count the money you would have spent on an island tour + snorkeling + kayaking + night swim, this is definitely a win!

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I still believe in paradise. But now at least I know it’s not some place you can look for, ’cause it’s not where you go. It’s how you feel for a moment in your life when you’re a part of something, and if you find that moment… it lasts forever…  

– Richard of The Beach Movie

We found our paradise moment on Maya Bay. Where was yours?

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Maya Bay: The BEST way to experience "The Beach". We had the island to ourselves from sunset to sunrise! by DrifterPlanet.com

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A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her husband (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sonal Kwatra Paladini

Railay, Ton Sai and Phra Nang in Krabi Province

Railay, Ton Sai and Phra Nang in Krabi Province

Railay peninsula in Krabi province is one of my favorites and I have visited it twice. However, my first visit to this place back in October 2013 is what I will remember for life, mainly because of my dramatic entry.

It was that time when my close friend Rosh and I decided to spend a few days here. After landing in Krabi town, we skipped the crowded party town of Ao Nang and got on to a long-tail boat to Railay East. However, the boat couldn’t go to the main pier because the tide was low and left us in a spot with calf length water from where we were supposed to walk for almost two kilometers till the edge.

We love walking however a thought stuck our heads – how do we carry our luggage? Back then, we were not backpackers, we were flash packers! You will cringe at the “S” word but yes we were carrying suitcases, not backpacks. Those suitcases were heavy because we were not experienced travelers hence did not pack smart. Oops!

My petite sized friend Rosh, who has mastered her “damsel in distress” look, was offered help by the boat operator who carried her suitcase on his head to the main area. However, I (I look stronger than Rosh but looks are deceiving) had to put my suitcase over my head and walk for two kilometers. The fact that I was wearing a pair of dilapidated flip flops and the seabed was entirely full of pebbles did not help!

The pebbles were pointy and slippery which caused my flip flops to slip away from my feet a few times and each time they floated away, Rosh had to grab them because I couldn’t bend with 11 KGs of luggage on my head. Well, it doesn’t sound like that big a deal? Wrong! I made a hilarious sight and I was aware of it. There were people standing in the distance who stopped their normal activities just to point at me and laugh. I made a mental note of three things:

  1. to NEVER carry a suitcase but always a backpack;
  2. to never over pack as tempting as it can be to carry a lot of clothes; and
  3. to learn to depict that “damsel in distress” look from Rosh

Anyway, this incident made us laugh for hours after Rosh and I had our first Chang beer in Railay. Our entry made us realize that Railay East is nothing but a straight kilometer long stretch next to sea. We were not very pleased with what we saw but a pleasant surprise hit us when we reached our rooms. Our rooms were booked in a place called Railay Garden View Resort which was at the end of Railay East, right next to the famous “Last Bar”. This resort is on an elevated area and the rooms are on top of small hills. Our room was one of the highest points of this place that required a bit of climbing. We reached the balcony of our room and our jaws fell. Wanna know why? Because of THIS view! We were in LOVE!

The View from Railay Garden View Resort in Railay East by Drifter Planet

The View from Railay Garden View Resort in Railay East

We fell in love with the resort, especially the cafe in it. The view from the cafe was amazing too, although not as nice as our room. There was an endless supply of tea, coffee (instant, not espresso) and water at all hours. Over the next few days, we thoroughly explored the area and realized how beautiful Railay (or Rai Leh) is.

The Railay peninsula is broadly divided 4 parts (See Map):

  1. Railay East
  2. Railay West
  3. Phra Nang
  4. Ton Sai
Railay Peninsula Map by Drifter Planet

Railay Peninsula Map by Drifter Planet

Railay East:

This is the place where the boat will drop you if you decide to visit Railay peninsula. Oh and there’s a proper pier here that I saw in my last visit in December 2014, so you no longer have to walk in water like I did when the tide is low. As mentioned earlier, this is a straight kilometer long stretch next to Railay East beach. This beach has mangroves hence, it’s not possible to swim or sunbathe here.

Stay: This area mostly has resorts and a few bungalows. I stayed in a beautiful room with a view for THBs 1000 per night.

Eat: There are many good places to eat here but our favorite was a place called Tom Yum Goong behind Skunk Bar. Yes, there’s a bar by that name! 4/20! A plate of Pad Thai in Tom Yum Goong costs around 70 THBs.

Pineapple Cashew Rice at Tom Yum Goong in Railay East by Drifter Planet

Pineapple Cashew Rice at Tom Yum Goong in Railay East

Bars: Talking about the bars here, this area has a lot of them and some are really cool – Skunk Bar, Why NOT Bar, Yaya Bar and the Famous Last Bar. Rosh and I spent many hours at the first two during the day and at the fourth one at night.

Can anyone guess where this is? #rasta #rastabar #whynot #wanderlust #nomad #travelblogger #blog

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Last Bar is the biggest one here and is literally the last bar on Railay East.  It has an area for Muay Thai (Thai Boxing) which occurs on a few days of the week.

Fire Dance and Muay Thai in Last Bar of Railay East by Drifter Planet

Fire Dance and Muay Thai in Last Bar of Railay East

On most of the days, there is an acoustic performance by a talented musician that plays the guitar and loves performing songs by The Beatles. Post Muay Thai or musical performances, the party begins! It is then, 4 or 5 fire dancers perform together for 30 – 40 minutes. After the fire dance, the main dance floor opens for everyone and it’s fun to see how everyone dances till wee hours of the morning. When I mean everyone, I mean guests, travelers and staff members.

Railay West

Railay West in Krabi Province by Drifter Planet

Railay West in Krabi Province by Drifter Planet

Railay West is only a 5 minute walk from Railay East but it’s a total change of scene. This beach is usually filled with resorts; hence it’s filled with families, honeymooners and rich travelers. The beach here is beautiful but I never ended up spending a lot of time here because I found this area to be a tad expensive. There are no places to party in this area so mostly people that stay here visit Last Bar in Railay East for that purpose. If you book a room here, the boat can drop you here too, but charges THBs 50 per person extra. It’s easier to get off at Railay East and walk for 5 minutes to reach here.

Phra Nang

Panorama of Phra Nang Beach

Panorama of Phra Nang Beach

Phra Nang is the MOST BEAUTIFUL part of this area. There is only one place to stay here and it’s super expensive. Phra Nang is 7 minute walk from Railay East towards the other end of Last Bar. The entry path to this beach is surrounded by stalagmite and stalactites laden limestone cliffs. There are many monkeys here, so keep all your personal belongings in your pockets before the monkey mafia snatches it away. This area has many interesting things to see.

Phra Nang Beach - Monkey on San's Shoulder

Phra Nang Beach – Monkey on San’s Shoulder

Phra Nang Cave Beach is the main attraction of this area.  Although this beach is crowded but it is possible to find empty spots if you walk towards the end of the beach, away from the caves. This beach is perfect for a swim.

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The best time to visit this beach is a little before the sunset. Most of the day trippers from Ao Nang and Phuket leave Phra Nang by then. Moreover, it looks spectacular during sunsets, especially when the rocks emit a reddish hue.

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This beach gets absolutely empty at night due to the lack of bars here. A night swim on this beach is a “must do” and it is possible to see the luminescent glow of planktons while you swim. This beach has only one place to stay – Rayavadee Resort, which is stunning but extremely expensive! There’s a restaurant in that resort called Grotto, which is famous because it’s inside a cave with stunning views. It is possible to eat fast food on Phra Nang beach from these long tail boats as shown in the below picture. This is a new addition that I saw in 2014.

Boat Food on Phra Nang Beach

Boat Food on Phra Nang Beach

Phra Nang Shrine is also another attraction here and is towards the start of the beach. It is inside a beautiful cave with painted wooden penises all around.

Shrine in Phra Nang Cave Beach by Drifter Planet

Shrine in Phra Nang Cave Beach

Strange sight indeed, but interesting nonetheless!

Phra Nang Shrine in Cave

Phra Nang Shrine in Cave

View Point and Lagoon can be reached by climbing on the limestone cliffs that are towards the entry part of the beach. Climbing on these cliffs to reach the viewpoint and lagoon is easy but it may not look that way. There’s a rope to hold yourself and the cliff has many points that you can hold on to. The holes on the rocks form natural steps to climb up.

Railay West and East from the view point in Phra Nang by Drifter Planet

Railay West and East from the view point in Phra Nang

The view from the top is lovely because you can see both Railay East and West. From here, the way to the lagoon is only 15 minutes away but on both the occasions that I was here, it started raining. When it rains here, it’s risky because the rocks become slippery and the mud turns sticky like clay. Much to my dismay, on both the occasions, the climbers turned back and advised us to do the same. In December 2014, San and I still insisted to reach the lagoon despite the rain but it got extremely slippery so we decided to head back mid-way.  My message to the lagoon: Dear elusive lagoon – I know you’re playing hard to get, but you don’t know my determination. I will visit again and meet you for once and for all.

San and I covered in mud after climbing in the rain. Location - Phra Nang Cave Beach in Railay.

San and I covered in mud after climbing in the rain. Location – Phra Nang Cave Beach in Railay.

Ton Sai

Ton Sai Beach - View from the top by Drifter Planet

Ton Sai Beach – View from the top

This is the best part of the entire Railay peninsula and is a 10 minute walk from Railay West. Unlike the other parts of this peninsula, Ton Sai can’t be reached by a leveled path but there’s a way from the rocks that leads to this area. It is not as developed as the other three areas. The electricity supply here runs for only a few hours in a day. I did not see a resort here, which is a good sign.

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We stayed in a place called Sai-Ngam Botanic Garden Resort which was a deep inside Ton Sai, next to the jungle area. We paid 500 THBs per night here for a very basic hut. This price included the breakfast as well and was wonderful!

We also stayed in another beautiful place in the main area called Andaman Nature Resort. We found a room in this place during the peak season for 500 THBs and the room was better than the first place. Andaman Nature Resort doesn’t have a website so a room can only be booked if you reach here.

Ton Sai at night. This beach is perfect for a night swim! by Drifter Planet

Ton Sai at night. This beach is perfect for a night swim!

Ton Sai beach is lovely! The sand here is a tad darker than the nearby Railay West but the vibes are way better. Typical crowd here comprised of budget backpackers and rock climbers.

The bars in Ton Sai are beautiful and I remember spending many evenings in a place called Chill Out Café with interesting seating, fire dancers and good music.

Cute Bars in Ton Sai by Drifter Planet

Cute Bars in Ton Sai

Keep in mind, the electricity supply in Ton Sai is available only for a few hours in a day. Charge your gadgets well in advance to avoid inconvenience.

Are you ready to explore the Stunning Beauty of Railay, Ton Sai and Phra Nang in Krabi Province? Which one would you go to first – Railey East, Railay West, Phra Nang or Ton Sai? Or all? Let me know in the comments section.

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A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her husband (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Sonal Kwatra Paladini

Bangkok in ONE Day – Things to do

Bangkok in ONE Day – Things to do

Explore Bangkok in one day.

Bangkok has been the gateway to SE Asia for many backpackers for the last few decades. It is the same place where Richard (Leonardo DiCaprio) arrived to start his adventures in “The Beach” movie.

My numerous visits to Bangkok have been for the purpose of visiting some other nearby destinations. Having lived in a metropolitan for years, I did not want to spend a lot of time in this city.

We were actually in Bangkok for longer than a day but our other activities such as skydiving left us with just one day and night to explore the city. Thus, in my attempt to get the most out of this city in one day, I made an effort to read a few travel guide for Bangkok and plan the day in advance.  Here’s my itinerary for getting the best out of Bangkok in one day:

Most of the backpackers find rooms on Khao San road, but on this occasion, we had booked our rooms in Silom so this itinerary starts from there. If you’re wondering where to stay in Bangkok, we suggest you skip Khao San Road and pick Silom or Sukhumvit instead. If you stay in Khao San road, you can skip the first step.

What we carried in our small bags:

Sun glasses, a tiny foldable umbrella, water bottles to keep us hydrated, scarves to cover our shoulders for temple visits and Chang beer from 7-11 which we purchased it after we were done visiting the temples. Oh and of course some little money, fully charged phones and hotel card.

Morning:

Road Side Breakfast: We got out of our rooms early in the morning, and enjoyed an interesting road side breakfast which comprised of fresh fruit, iced coffee, iced tea, fish and pancakes.

 

Chao Phraya Express boat

Chao Phraya Express boat

Chao Phraya Express boat: We walked to Sathorn pier in Silom. Our walk took us 15 minutes. My recommendation is to save an offline version of google maps or just ask locals for the nearest boat pier. We waited for 5 minutes and boarded the first boat. I love tuk tuks and metro however, I feel the best and the cheapest way of traveling internally within Bangkok is by boat. Also, the marking on the boats can be confusing so please ask around. If you’re starting point is Khao San Road, then you need to walk to Phra Arthit Pier.

Wat Pho - Temple of Reclining Buddha

Wat Pho – Temple of Reclining Buddha

Explore Wat Pho, Wat Arun and Grand Palace: We got off the boat at Tha Tien which has Wat Pho on one side and Wat Arun on the other side.  Wat Pho is known as the temple of reclining Buddha and Wat Arun is known as temple of dawn.  These two temples are the most famous landmarks of Bangkok and are right next to each other with a river between them. Grand Palace is next to Wat Pho.

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Wat Arun looks much better from across the river. Personally, Rosh and I did not spend much time in these three places because they were jam-packed with tourists. In fact, we discovered a quaint temple next to Wat Arun which was empty and peaceful.

A quiet and empty temple next to Wat Arun

A quiet and empty temple next to Wat Arun

Mid-Day:

Lunch: Having spent a few hours exploring temples, we were starving! We thought we would have a relaxed sit down lunch but we couldn’t resist the street food and had a variety of things again.

Thai Street food: Grilled Octopus

Thai Street food: Grilled Octopus

Siam Street or Khao San Road: Siam Street was not originally in our itinerary but we ended up being there by accident. Siam Street or Khao San road are two different kind of areas but I suggest you pick one if you’re short of time. Khao San is backpacker’s paradise with bars, road side massages, street food and cheap bargains on the road. Siam Street is more focused on shopping. From What Pho we caught a tuk tuk to the nearest BTS station and upon looking at the map, we realized we had to change our metro for Silom (Chong Nonsi) at Siam, so we decided to explore the area.

Siam Street in Bangkok

Siam Street in Bangkok

Siam BTS station provides a good aerial view of the market area. We had no intentions of shopping but ended up buying a few things at unbelievable prices. Out of all the shopping streets in Bangkok, Siam had the best goodies. We also spotted some beautifully arranged street food here.

Fruit on Siam Street

Fruit on Siam Street

Look at the seafood! At Siam Street

Look at the seafood! At Siam Street

Shrimps on sticks at Siam Street, Bangkok

Shrimps on sticks at Siam Street, Bangkok

Evening:

Back to the rooms: From Siam BTS, we headed to Chong Nonsi BTS to keep our unexpected shopping in our rooms. A swim on our roof top pool and a pint of beer later, we headed out again.

Our Roof Top Pool in I-Residence Silom. We got a good deal on the price here.

Our Roof Top Pool in I-Residence Silom. We got a good deal on the price here.

We noticed a food court in near our hotel in Silom which was full of locals and we decided to give it a try. We ended up having our best meal in Bangkok for 80 bhats per person.  It was one of those places where you could select rice or noodles with a few veggies, curries, meats, salads and seafood. Look at all those chili clamps on my plate!

The Most Amazing Thai Meal

The Most Amazing Thai Meal

Night:

Pat Pong Street – Night market and the infamous Ping pong shows: Our next stop was the nearby infamous Pat Pong Street. This place is famous for its ping pong shows. We did end up watching one show out of curiosity and narrowly escaped being scammed. Check this post for top travel scams that you should watch out for.

Our main motive of visiting Pat Pong street was was to check out the night market. Pat Pong Street has the funniest things which you can buy on the road, such as mini vibrators, dildos, sex toys, kinky souvenirs and a lot of rubbish. Anyway, after exploring the market found a place called “Thai Thai Massage” and pampered ourselves with the best foot massage of our trip.

The infamous Pat Pong Street at night

The infamous Pat Pong Street at night

Khao San Road: If you have some energy left to party, then head to Khao San road. Khao San road is alive the entire night with bars that sell cheap alcohol and play many different genres of music. Rosh and I didn’t have any energy left and felt sleepy after our foot massage so we headed back to our rooms to catch 6 hours of sleep to wake up early morning for our Sky Dive.

More Options if you’re visiting for a few more days:

Chatuchak Market (Weekend): If you end up being in Bangkok over the weekend, then you MUST visit this market.  We visited this one our way back from one of the islands and our eyes popped out at the massive scale of this market.  Again, we had no intention of shopping but our visit was to experience the madness of this market. This market cannot be covered in a day.  It has multiple sections dedicated to food, clothes, shoes, antique furniture, clay handicrafts, garden decorative, jewelry and so much more! The best thing about this market is that it caters to the locals so you can expect lower prices. It’s easy to reach this by MRT. The nearest station is Chatuchak Park MRT Station. This is where I ate a few crispy insects like cockroaches, grasshoppers, frogs, bugs and what not.

Insects at Chatuchak Market

Insects at Chatuchak Market – Yummy!

Dinner on Chao Phraya riverfront with a view of Wat Arun: There are many restaurants along the Chao Phraya river but imagine enjoying a dinner with a view of Wat Arun.  We didn’t do this because we are budget travelers but would like to do this someday. Arun Residence is one such restaurant that can provide you a view of Wat Arun as you eat.

Dinner on Chao Phraya river front with a view of Wat Arun

Dinner on Chao Phraya river front with a view of Wat Arun – Picture by Carmen Fernandes

(This picture is by our Photographer friend Carmen Fernandes)

Floating Market: Just outside of Bangkok, there are a few floating markets that are worth a visit. These have become extremely touristy but who cares because they looks beautiful! There are many floating markets such as Damnoen Saduak, Amphawa, Bang Khu Wiang, etc.  These markets start early in the mornings and mostly on the weekends. We didn’t end up going there, but our photographer friend Carmen did. Look how beautiful this looks.

Bangkok Floating Market by Carmen Fernandes

Bangkok Floating Market by Carmen Fernandes

(This picture is by our Photographer friend Carmen Fernandes)

China Town: San has been to China Town and he says he felt he was actually in China. This one kilometer long narrow strip of market that is dotted with many small shops with Mandarin signboards is Bangkok’s China town.  It is jampacked, a little dirty, has a lot of intriguing sights and a variety of interesting food options.

Chinatown in Bangkok by DrifterPlanet.com

Chinatown in Bangkok

Bangkok has a variety of options for every budget. From variety of temples, to offbeat hidden gems, expensive up market rooftop bars (like Sky Bar at Lebua or Vertigo at Banyan Tree) and kinky cabaret –the city has something to offer for everyone. This metropolitan is the most populated city of Thailand which has retained its cultural charm. I hope this post convinces you to visit the city soon.

 

BANGKOK in ONE day - things to do in Bangkok for one day

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My Travel Hangover Made Me Meet My Soul Mate

My Travel Hangover Made Me Meet My Soul Mate

Have you ever experienced a travel hangover?

I did back in November 2013. This happened right after I came back home (India) from a backpacking trip in Thailand with my travel buddy Rosh.

TRAVEL HANGOVER

My Travel Hangover made me meet my soulmate

Travel Hangover is that disgusting feeling when you come back home after traveling and feel your life will end if you don’t go back. Go back where? Back to traveling!

Anyway, we had just returned back home, had just about unpacked and couldn’t stop talking about Thailand. Three hours and three drinks later, we decided to book our tickets to go back to Thailand! (Blame it on our favorite Thai Rum – Sangsom). Needless to say, our friends and families were a little worried because they believed we had absolutely lost our minds. To tell you the truth, they were kind of right…

Being broke as hell did not stop us at all. In fact, we were confident of our ability to travel at a fraction of the cost of our previous budget. We never really got a chance to unpack and a few weeks later we were ready to go. We said bye to Delhi’s bleak winter and boarded a flight to Thailand. No words can describe the euphoria which we felt as our flight took off, because, in our minds, we were ready to conquer the world!

Khao San Pad Thai

Khao San Pad Thai – My Travel Hangover Made me meet my Soul Mate

Upon landing in Bangkok, we boarded a train and headed directly to Khao San road. We had 2 hours to kill before our Lomprayah Bus so we decided to indulge in a delicious road side meal of Pad Thai. Lomprayah has a bunch of high-speed catamarans and a few comfortable air conditioned buses.  It’s easy to book a bus + boat ticket through them online. There are many other services such as Songserm and Seatran Discovery but I find Lomprayah’s website the easiest to navigate.

A few words of advice to anyone before boarding Lomprayah coaches: please carry warm clothes when you have to travel in Lomprayah coaches else you will freeze. Having forgotten our previous journey, Rosh and I almost froze to death till a fellow backpacker Dan gave us his extra blanket. I love making friends on the road and some of these friendships have lasted a long time. In this instance, Dan became our friend.

Rosh, Dan and I

Rosh, Dan and I

A few hours of conversations revealed that Dan had recently finished school in Germany and was taking a year off before starting college. He had spent many months traveling all over Asia and to our surprise, had seen more of our country than we had back then. Shame on us! He was actually headed to Koh Tao but he decided to join us in Koh Phangan instead. The three of us spent a few days in Koh Phangan exploring the island for the second time, eating some delicious food, indulging in some Thai massages and spending a few evenings in Ban Tai’s parties. You can read about my Koh Phangan experience here. A few days in Phangan were enough for us and we decided to head to Koh Tao. Our main reason to head to Koh Tao was to attend a 4-day long PsyTrance festival – The Experience Festival of Koh Tao, which occurs around the NYE.

Koh Tao

Koh Tao

We introduced Dan to PsyTrance and ended up having an amazing time. The spectacle of colors and amazing UV decor is a visual delight at this festival. You can read my post about the Experience festival here.

Sunrise and fresh morning air by Digital Thangka

The Experience Festival – Sunrise and fresh morning air by Digital Thangka

However, it was the third morning of the festival when Rosh and I returned back to our room in our “festival high” that I got the bad news. Somewhere between December 31, 2013 and January 1, 2014 while I was celebrating the New Year’s Eve, my good friend Pratap had passed away. He was traveling in Kerala (India) to celebrate New Year’s Eve with his friend but ended up in a deadly motorcycle accident. The shock engulfed me because our friendship had developed quickly and I had spent many evenings on his terrace discussing music and travel. It pained me to remember how excited he was about traveling in Kerala.. which ended up being fatal.

My friend Pratap

My friend Pratap

I decided to stay in my room but thankfully Rosh dragged me out to the festival.  I decided to get a little drunk to keep my mind away from the loss of my friend. I did not want to speak to anyone so I sat in my hammock, sipped my Sangsom and tried not to think about my friend. It was not easy to control my thoughts and before I realized, I had tears rolling down my face. I was well hidden with rocks all around me but after a few minutes I realized there was another hammock behind me with a person on it.  I gazed back at him but never got to know if he saw my tears or not.

A little while later, we started talking. Thankfully our lighthearted coversation distracted my mind and I felt better. We spent the entire night talking but did not exchange names and said goodbye at the end of the night.  The next day, I realized my eyes were searching for him at the festival. Shit, I didn’t even know his name, his country – was I ever going to find him again? Strangely at that moment, I saw Pratap’s face in my mind who gave me a knowing smile. Just at that moment, to my delight, I saw him walking to me.  We spent the entire evening dancing, talking and exchanging our travel stories. Soon it was time to say goodbye to him and Thailand.

Can you spot San and me? :)

San and I are in right in front, can you spot us? 🙂

On our flight back to India, my friend Rosh asked me if I was ever going to meet him again. “Probably not” is what I answered. That’s the thing about travel romances – you never know if you’re ever meeting again. Moreover, I wasn’t even sure if ours was a “travel romance” because nothing really happened, except I felt a deep connection on a mental level. Did he feel the same? I did not know at that time but I was about to find out!

I got my answer as soon as I landed in Delhi and switched on my phone. There was a message from him and he was thinking of booking a ticket to India. Whoa!

Well, I don’t think I need to say more. From here on, things were on a roller-coaster ride.  He spent a few months in India; we traveled together within India and got to know each other better. We realized we had the same passion for travel, adventure and music with a carefree outlook towards life. We wanted to explore more and experience different cultures together.

It didn’t take long for us to realize that we are soul mates. We fell in love and he asked me to marry him. We traveled back to same place where we had met exactly after one year. This is us in Koh Tao where we clicked our “Save The Date”.

My Travel Hangover Made Me Meet My Soul (1)

 

Have you ever fallen in love while traveling? Let me know in the comments!

15 Reasons to LOVE the Experience Festival

15 Reasons to LOVE the Experience Festival

If you have been following our blog, then you must be aware that San and I met while backpacking a few years back.  However, not many of you know that we met at a music festival in Koh Tao. The name of that music festival is The Experience festival and here are the reasons why we absolutely LOVE this festival. We promise you will love it too if you visit it:

1) The BEST Time of the Year

An Extended New Year Party! - by Digital Thangka

An Extended New Year Party! – by Digital Thangka

The festival starts on December 30 and ends on January 2 – which makes it the BEST time to party. Don’t we all want to spend the New Year’s Eve in a big party? You know what’s better than a party? A FESTIVAL that lasts for FOUR DAYS!  YAYYY!!!!

2) Beautiful Location

Koh Tao Island picture by Veejay Baba

Koh Tao Island picture by Veejay Baba

The location of the festival is Koh Tao which also known as “turtle island”. Did you know, Koh Tao is on number 5 in the List of Top 10 Islands worldwide as per TripAdvisor’s 2015 Travelers choice awards? If you like diving, then Koh Tao is the perfect place for your next level of PADI certification.

3) Energy on the main dance floor

Energy on the Dance floor - by Digital Thangka

Energy on the Dance floor – by Digital Thangka

There’s something magical about the main dance floor of this festival.  It will pull you in and make you dance for many hours.  It’s the energy of the people on the trance floor that will embrace you and turn you into a stomper.

Look at the Energy! by Digital Thangka

Look at the Energy! by Digital Thangka

Suggested Reading: New Year’s Eve Party on the beach in Mirissa, Sri Lanka

4) Amazing music

Photo by Digital Thangka

Photo by Digital Thangka

Some of the best international psytrance artists are regulars at this festival.  This year, more than 50 amazing artists from all over the world are included in the lineup – Atriohm, Audioform, Bitkit, Contineum, Frangipani, Funky Dragon, Human Groove, Imaginarium, Liftshift, Lucid Mantra, Middle Mode, Note, Obliviant, Sonic Entity, Southwild, Starlab, Tantrix, Tristate, Vivid Loop, Ananda, Apnea, Betty, Commontense, Fordy, Ganesh, Hugo Nation, Jafar, Jo Moontribe, Jorg Vs Wung, K-Isuma, K.O.B., Koi, Lars Lee, Lenny & Carl, Mike Mad, Psymbiosis, R’Deem, Raoul, Sabaii Sabaii, Scotty, Shitaki, Single Vision, Sonic Quake, Tobermory, Tripical, Trippy, Yohei, Zig, Baburs, Blue Eyed Violet, K.O.B., Naure Said, Psychotic, Psymbiosis, Soniya, Ssongg, Tranquilogen, Tommy Rocker and Wacamolo.

5) Decoration

Photo by Digital Thangka

Photo by Digital Thangka

As some people say, the Experience festival has the most beautiful décor. The entry will make you feel like you’re entering a UV garden. The chill out area on your right as you enter, can turn the darkest of trips into a positive experience. The jellyfish and magical creatures décor will make you feel like you’re dreaming. The LED décor and the DJ station area on the dance floor will pump up your senses and lift you to a new level.

Wow - look at the decor! Picture by Veejay Baba

Wow – look at the decor! Picture by Veejay Baba

6) Happy people, good vibes

Look how happy everyone is - by Digital Thangka

Look how happy everyone is – by Digital Thangka

Just look how happy everyone is! Beautiful people with beautiful smiles that spread good vibes! Seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces at this festival has spoilt me for life. Out of habit, I smiled at a few people while I was at a festival in Europe, which resulted in confused looks from them. (Yes, it’s funny)

So much positive energy! by Digital Thangka

So much positive energy! by Digital Thangka

7) The Weather

Sunrise and fresh morning air by Digital Thangka

Sunrise and fresh morning air by Digital Thangka

Who wants to spend a festival shivering in cold or sweating like a pig in extreme heat? Koh Tao’s perfectly balanced tropical island weather is a delight to spend time in.

8) Water tank

Water Spashing by Digital Thangka

Water Spashing by Digital Thangka

Ok, it may not be very hot, but c’mon, you’re at a festival and you will end up sweating if you dance in the sun.  However, the festival organizers have come up with an awesome solution – a water tank that sprays water on the dancers in the morning!

Picture by Digital Thangka

Picture by Digital Thangka

9) Affordable

Entry Ticket price will make you smile :) by Veejay Baba

Entry Ticket price will make you smile 🙂 by Veejay Baba

The entry ticket to this festival is 3000 Thai Bhats at the gate and 2500 Thai Bhats if you buy two months before the festival.  If you do some math, 3000 Thai Bhats ~ INR 6000 (approx). No festival of THIS duration and THIS scale is as affordable as this.  Usually, the pre-sale entry fee for a 2 day pass to NH7 (Delhi) which is not even for 24 hours costs more; and if you buy it on the gate, it costs double.  If you compare this to the cost of festivals in Europe or Australia, this is only a fraction of the cost. Also, the alcohol prices are low in the festival bar. One drink costs around 100-150 Thai Bhats. Lovely!

10) Clean Toilets

No one likes a dirty toilet. If you read about my post about the Wonderland festival in Germany, then you would have read about the hard time I faced there because of the toilets.  Guess what, the toilets in this festival are not the typical temporary festival toilets.  They are clean, proper and have an airy feel to them. Please keep them clean if you visit the festival.

11) Amazing sights

Amazing sights by Digital Thangka and Veejay Baba

Amazing sights by Digital Thangka and Veejay Baba

The amazing sights at this festival are enough for one entire full page post, but I will try my best to put this in one point.  You will get to witness a beautiful sunrise, some interesting message boards that people carry, some really talented poi dancers, hula hoop dancers, fire dancers as well as some people who dress up in the most unique way.

Photo by Veejay Baba

12) Food and Shopping Section

Photo by Veejay Baba

Photo by Veejay Baba

The food section has some really delicious snacks, fruits, juices, coffee and instant noodles – easily affordable.  The shops have some of the most artistic jewelry, tiaras, tank tops, jackets and so much more.

13) Several Resting Options – Chill Out Area, Wooden Sitting Area, Camping Area and the some Hammock Spots

Of course you will need some good resting spots after hours of dancing.  The festival has a beautiful chill out area where you can put your mat, lie down and spend hours.

Chill Out Area - by Veejay Baba

Chill Out Area – by Veejay Baba

Or you can pitch a tent in the camping area for FREE and save money on accommodation. Oh and if you don’t want to leave the dance area, there’s are huge wooden areas around the dance-floor, like this:

Sitting Area by Veejay Baba

Sitting Area by Veejay Baba

Or you can put up your hammock in one of the many spots like this:

Hammock Area, Photo by Veejay Baba

Hammock Area, Photo by Veejay Baba

Or just chill inside the dustbin, like this:

Dustbin was also a popular spot! By Veejay Baba

Dustbin was also a popular spot! By Veejay Baba

14) Some New Friends…for life

Our little festival family

Our little festival family

San and I have met many people at this festival and some have become our friends for life.  The scale of this festival is not as massive as some of the mainstream festivals hence it is visited by a fewer number of like-minded people (close to 2000 – 3000) and it feels like a close knit family.

15) Many Amazing Pictures and Videos After the Festival

Don’t we all love pictures and videos?  This festival has some of the best people as the official photographers and videographers.  This results in the most beautiful pictures and videos which you can share and save to keep your memories alive forever. Drifter Planet loves the pictures by Danny Apnea Martens (Digital Thangka) and Veejay Baba.  All the pictures in this post are by them.  If you like their work, you should follow them on facebook (Digital Thangka), (Veejay Baba)  or check out Digital Thangka’s  work on flickr (click here).

Amazing Photography!

Amazing Photography!

If you’re in or are traveling to Asia, then we highly recommend you attend this festival. Check out the below links for further information:

Festival Websitehttp://theexperience-kohtao.com/

Festival FB page: https://www.facebook.com/experience.kohtao

Festival Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1383520221972198/

Image Courtesy:  Digital Thangka – https://www.facebook.com/Digital.Thangka, http://www.flickr.com/photos/digital_thangka/ and Veejay Baba https://www.facebook.com/vj.baba.1

Want more fun?  Check out the official video by Mario Chamorro Montenegro & Andi Johnen (Check me out stomping full power at 2:15):

Or this by Diogo Castro from Portugal. (San and I are at 6:02 😉 )

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The Experience Festival of Koh Tao

The Experience Festival of Koh Tao

A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her husband (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sonal Kwatra Paladini

Koh Phangan – Thailand’s Party Island

Koh Phangan – Thailand’s Party Island

Koh Phangan is a Paradise Island and is one of the three major islands located in the gulf of Thailand in the middle of Koh Tao and Koh Samui. This island is famous for its parties – the Full Moon Party being the most famous one. If you only want to know about the Full Moon Party, you can read my post on it here.  This post is about the island in general.

How to reach Koh Phangan:

In my experience, the best way to travel to Koh Phangan is by catching a high speed catamaran from Donsak pier (Surat Thani). You can reach Surat Thani by bus / train / flight.  You can book a combined bus + boat ticket from Bangkok to Koh Phangan using Lomprayah by booking online or asking any locally based travel agent.  Apart from Lomprayah, there are many other tour operators such as Songserm and Seatran Discovery, but it’s easier to book on Lomprayah’s website.

Alternatively, you can fly to Koh Samui airport and catch a ferry to Koh Phangan, which is usually more expensive.

The Island, the beaches, and where to stay?

Koh Phangan MapFinding a place to stay without prior booking is usually not a problem unless you arrive just on the day or a day before the full moon party. If you’re visiting this island around the full moon party time, please arrive at least 3-4 days in advance to find a place to stay, else book online. Most of the places around that time let you stay only if you book for at least 3 days. However, if your travel dates don’t match the Full Moon Party dates, don’t worry, there’s a party everyday in Koh Phangan and to be honest, this island so much more to offer than just parties if you give it a chance.

When you arrive, the ferry will leave you at Thong Sala pier.  Many locals at the pier will try to sell you expensive rooms but if you ignore them and walk around, you will find a few affordable options to stay – from 150 to 500 THBs per night for hostels and 300 THBs onward for double rooms. Thong Sala area has a good street food market which is very active at night.  Amsterdam Bar, which is famous for it’s amazing views is near Thong Sala.

Suggested Reading: Chang Rai Things to do

From Thong Sala, most of the visitors head to Haad Rin area, which is the location for the Full Moon Party and is usually full and overflows with tourists even when there’s no full moon party, so you can imagine how crowded it gets at the time of the full moon party. As you have read on my last post, the Full Moon Party location is Sunrise Beach, which is quite scenic – only if you can imagine it without the crowd, that is.

Haad Rin during the day

Haad Rin during the day

Haad Rin is the most developed part of this island with many places to party, eat, shop, etc. It has many affordable road side Falafel stands, mainly because majority of the tourists in this area are from Isreal. To be honest, every night feels like a full moon party on Sunrise beach. This is NOT my favorite area.

Ban Tai Koh Phangan

Ban Tai Koh Phangan

I prefer the nearby Ban Tai and Ban Kai areas, which are conveniently near to the full moon party area, but conveniently far away from the crowds. This part faces the nearby Koh Saumi island. Also, Ban Tai has the longest strip of uninterrupted beach area in Koh Phangan, so if you like staying next to the beach, there are many options  here. I once stayed in a simple, “no frills” room in Jamin Bar in Ban Tai for 250 THBs for two people in Ban Tai in peak season (Dec 2013), so if you hunt around, you will find many affordable options.

Jamin Ban Tai Koh Phangan

Jamin Ban Tai Koh Phangan

Where to Party on Koh Phangan

The icing on the cake – Ban Tai areas has multiple parties such as Ban Sabaii parties, Jungle Experience, Half Moon, Shiva moon and more. Baan Tai also has a herbal sauna in Wat Pho near seven eleven, which is open from 1 pm to 7 pm and costs 50 bhats.

Phangan Jungle Experience Party

Koh Phangan’s Jungle Experience Party (Ban Tai)

Personally, I think Ban Tai’s parties are much better than Haad Rin’s parties because of fewer people, better music (mostly PsyTrance), interesting locations and psychedelic decor.  Jungle Experience is the most popular one but the entry is usually THBs 200 – 300 and the drinks are expensive. This party is usually scheduled 4 days and 1 day before the full moon party.

Alternatively, if you want to isolate yourselves from the crowds, you can stay on the north side of the island as well. Haad Yao and Haad Salad are beautiful beaches.  It is possible to find cheaper rooms in this area.  Koh Phangan being a party island, hence it is possible to party even in quiet Haad Yao and Saad Salad area in Pirate Bar.

Parrot at High Life Haad Yao

Parrot at High Life Haad Yao

I once stayed in an unexpectedly luxurious room for THBs 1000 for two people around the full moon party time in Haad Yao in a place called High Life which was perched on top of a few rocks that overlooked the ocean and this hotel had an infinity pool.  This hotel also had a pet parrot and a few cats.  The friendly parrot usually paid us a visit during our breakfast time.  We did not expect such luxury for this price since it costed us THBs 500 per person and we saw many hostels for 450 THBs in Haad Rin area around that time. Our meals in this hotel were affordable, filling and delicious.  To give you a sense – Pad Thai was for THBs 80 and was delicious.  It is possible to get cheaper Pad Thai on road side for THBs 50.

As you know, most of the people visit this Island for the infamous full moon party, but in my opinion, the best parties happen on Haad Tian beach (or Haad Thien or Tien) – in Eden Garden and Guy’s bar. Haad Tian is can only be reached by taking a 15 minute boat ride from Haad Rin. Haad Tian is Koh Phangan’s little secret and is a yoga sanctuary. The party area is very beautiful and overlooks a pretty white sand beach of Haad Yuan.

Getting Around in Koh Phangan

Getting around in Koh Phangan is super simple.  Just stand on the road and stop the nearest taxi and they will take you to your destination for THBs 50 to THBs 200 per person depending on where you stay and where you want to go. Oh and by the way, by taxi I mean a shared open pick-up truck or as it’s called locally – songthaew. Please negotiate the cost to save money. It makes sense to look at the map to understand the general directions and distances so that you can negotiate better.

Phangan at night

Phangan at night

You can also rent scooters for around THBs 300 per day but please be careful since there are many blind spots and corners on the roads here. A scooter ends up being more affordable here considering per person taxi costs. Scooter makes sense as well because the island has many beaches and it’s a good idea to explore as many as possible.

Eating and Drinking in Koh Phangan

Seafood Pad Thai - Yum

Seafood Pad Thai – Yum

Eating out in Koh Phangan is a lot of fun.  I have never had a bad meal here. Try to find places where locals eat to save money. Even in restaurants, local food is cheaper than international food.  If you’re short on money, eating Pad Thais can save you money because these are filling and can cost from THBs 50 to 100, depending on where you eat.  Do try as many different curries as you can.  I remember eating the most delicious Kaeng matsaman (or Massaman curry) of my multiple Thai visits on this island.

Drinking in Koh Phangan can be really affordable if you drink local Thai brands. I usually drink Chang beer in the day and buy my own Sangsom whiskey (which is technically rum) from seven eleven.  Sangsom has a tinge of sweetness and goes very well with coke. I personally hate coke but make it an exception to drink it with rum. On the other hand, there’s Singha beer which is more famous and Leo which is the cheapest, but I prefer Chang because it’s stronger, affordable and tastes better. They say, Chang is inconsistent alcohol content, and some Chang beers can be more potent than others – but I have not been lucky enough to experience this.

If you want to get really hammered, you can have a few buckets which have Thai red bull and Thai energy drinks but be careful about getting suspiciously cheap buckets on Haad Rin road side.  Click here to read my post about my Full Moon Party for more information on Haad Rin alcohol buckets. A “Bucket” is Thai way of drinking – a mix of alcohol, coke, red bull and mixers in an actual mini bucket. Usually, these buckets contain quarter of an alcohol bottle.

Phangan Waterfall

Phangan Waterfall

Phangan Island has a bunch of waterfalls, out of which, Phaeng waterfall appears to be the most popular. You will need to hike for a while but when we went to see the waterfall, there was no water and someone had scribbled “No” on the main entry sign so it read “No Phaeng waterfall”. There are a few more waterfalls as well, but the times when we visited, we saw no water flowing but only static water.

Eat good Thai food, get relaxing Thai Massages, go for herbal sauna, snorkel around in the nearby Koh Mah, scuba dive, go for hikes, learn yoga or just party endlessly – Koh Phangan has something for everyone and is not to be missed.  When I talk about Koh Phangan, I get asked about the Full Moon Party the most.  Trust me, there’s much more to this island than just the full moon party. You can read my blog post on Full Moon Party here.

You might also like:

Maya Bay – The Best Way to Experience “The Beach”

Full Moon Party of Koh Phangan

Railay Beach of Krabi Province

Vang Vieng, Laos

A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her husband (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sonal Kwatra Paladini

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